Ten guards and employees of Nicosia’s central prison have been suspended as police investigate the murder of a Turkish Cypriot inmate, with many details emerging but not adding up as suspects already in custody were thought to be friendly with the victim.
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A Nicosia district judge has ordered eight inmates in remanded custody on premeditated murder after prison staff picked them out from video footage as having been implicated in the death 41-year-old Tansu Cidan, a Turkish Cypriot inmate who was found dead Thursday night in his cell.
Cidan was pronounced dead in his cell by a prison medic on Thursday night, while police and forensic examiners were notified half an hour later to go to Nicosia General Hospital where the body had been taken for autopsy.
A day earlier in the late afternoon a person with a sheet over his head and body was caught on video being walked back to Cidan’s cell, according to media reports citing prison footage
According to local media, the suspects including Kurds from Turkey and a Syrian, were identified by prison officers after examining CCTV footage that showed inmates moving about in the ward, including Cidan getting out of his cell Wednesday morning and being coaxed into walking into another one belonging to the main suspect.
In the late afternoon on Wednesday a person with a sheet over his head and body was caught on video tape being walked back to Cidan’s cell, according to media reports citing video footage.
Police have not made public any parts of the video which was made available to them by prison officers. It was previously understood that police did not inspect the actual security camera footage.
“From the first moment, Police through cooperation with the Prison Department are examining CCTV footage from the subsection in order to ascertain the conditions of his death, the persons with whom he had come in contact, and any other details that might help shed light on the case,” a prison statement later said.
Based on the video footage, which does not record inside individual cells, it appeared that three of the suspects went into Cidan’s cell on Thursday night around 9pm, with one of them holding a red T-shirt. Previous reports also cited three individuals walking into the cell and then exiting one by one while holding their hands over their heads in disbelief.
But the case appeared to be more convoluted as investigators collected several statements, including one from a prison officer who said he was on foot patrol in Cidan’s ward a day earlier and did not find anything suspicious or anything out of the ordinary.
According to local media, a fellow inmate was also purported to have told officers that he had seen Cidan walking within his subsection some 40 minutes before the incident, presumably referring to the discovery of the body on Thursday night at 9:15pm, when a prison officer and a medic rushed to the cell.
Ten prison officers, staff suspended following murder
Justice Minister Stefi Dracou has ordered an administrative probe into the matter while also calling for the suspension of five prison officers and a prison sergeant.
Prison Warden Anna Aristotelous later told reporters she was also suspending four employees at the state’s penitentiary but did not provide specific reasons.
“I will move forward with disciplinary proceedings against four members of staff regarding matters not directly related to the incident but there are omissions by them as regards to carrying out their duties,” Aristotelous said.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar weighed in on the incident, calling on Greek Cypriot authorities “not to cover up” Cidan’s murder “like other crimes against Turkish Cypriots.”
Tatar called on the perpetrators to be identified as soon as possible so that they could be brought to justice, “sentenced and with punishment they deserve.”
Cidan was a convicted felon known to police on both sides of the divided island. He was serving an 8-year sentence in the south after he was convicted on drug charges back in July. His photo had emerged in April when Cyprus Police were looking for him following a wild car chase in Limassol in connection with a meth operation.